The Sierra Leone flagged cargo ship sank in the Sea of Japan 50 miles from the port of Nakhodka in the Primorye Territory. The tragedy occurred after the ship left the Russian port having tried to deliver a consignment of "poor-quality" rice to a Russian company that refused to accept the goods and threatened to take legal action and have the vessel seized.
The ship owner, a Hong Kong based company, ordered the captain to leave the Russian port without prior permission from the Russian authorities. The ship crossed the Russian border illegally, said Natalya Rondaleva, spokesperson for the Federal Security Service Primorye.
Two Russian border guard ships were sent to stop the vessel, but the captain ignored the warning signals. "Border guards fired warning shots but even after that the vessel failed to stop. After that more direct shots were fired," an unnamed source told RIA Novosti.
The ship later issued a distress signal when the vessel started to take on water and 16 crew members, all of them Indonesian and Chinese nationals, were forced to get into two life rafts. Half of them were picked up by a Russian vessel while an attempt to save the other eight sailors failed when they were washed out to sea and drowned.
An investigation into the actions of the Russian border guard vessels has been sent to military prosecutors.